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The world reacts to Aretha Franklin's death

By Gary Graff and Stephen Frye
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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News about Aretha Franklin's failing health and subsequent death brought a swift and reverent flood of reactions from around the world.

Here is some of what was said about the Queen of Soul, the lifelong Detroiter and longtime Bloomfield Hills resident.

• Smokey Robinson: "This morning, my longest friend in this world went home to be with our father. I will miss her so much, but I know she’s at peace."

• From Clive Davis, who signed Aretha to Arista Records and executive produced many of her albums: "I’m absolutely devastated by Aretha’s passing. She was truly one of a kind. She was more than the Queen of Soul. She was a national treasure to be cherished by every generation throughout the world. Apart from our long professional relationship, Aretha was my friend. Her loss is deeply profound and my heart is full of sadness"

• Bob Seger, another Detroit-area musical legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member: "What an otherworldly talent. Legendary. Right up there with the greatest singers ever. She will be greatly missed. Irreplaceable."

• Berry Gordy Jr., Motown founder: A national treasure to everyone. But to me personally, Aretha Franklin was my dear, dear friend, my homegirl, and I loved her a lot. From seeing her as a baby singing and playing at the piano at her father’s home, to her giving a rousing performance at the White House, she has always been amazing. No matter how the music has changed over the years, she remained so relevant. Though never signed to Motown, Aretha was considered part of my family. We always shared fond memories of the Motor City, life, and just things. Her passing is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for people all over the world who were touched by her incredible gift and remarkable spirit. Aretha Franklin will always be the undisputed Queen of Soul, and her legacy will live forever. My condolences go out to her sons, other family members, friends and fans. I will miss her."

• Greg Harris, President & CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: “Lady Soul. The first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha Franklin was an artist of passion, sophistication and command, whose recordings remain anthems that defined soul music. Long live the Queen."

• Mitch Ryder: "She affected me more as a fan than anything else, and by what she was capable of as a singer. She could go for these indescribably beautiful notes and twists of melody without breaking a sweat. She never had to struggle for it ... and if she did, nobody knew about it, and I’m sure she wasn't going to tell anybody. She could go an octave and a half up in a split second. Most people would have to at least have to rev their engines up to get on that starting line, but she just jumped. It was spontaneous notes that I couldn't even fathom being reached by a mortal human, just really incredible stuff."

• Narada Michael Walden, producer-songwriter-drummer: "She had a fire burning inside her that that wants greatness, expects greatness and brings greatness and does greatness. She loved to have fun, but it was always intense. She was a real force, a joy to work with."

• The Rolling Stones: "Very sad to hear the news about Aretha, she was so inspiring and wherever you were she always brought you to church."

• Michael McDonald, classic rock veteran who played in Detroit on Wednesday night: "Aretha Franklin holds a significant place in the collective heart of America. She’s a singular example of what we represent at our best. Her courage as an artist—making her work her life’s foremost endeavor — and her conviction to strive for her greatest potential is an example that this country will always benefit from. It's something that truly defines us in a positive light to the rest of the world.

"She’s one of those iconic artists that cause most people to remember where they were the very first time they heard her amazing voice. She has reached that highest level as an artist where her voice has become, in a collective and spiritual sense, our voice.

"In a time when art is increasingly considered a secondary human pursuit, she reminds us that it is the very thing that represents our humanity the best. Aretha Franklin is and will always be a national treasure."

• Lenny Kravitz, veteran rocker: "I love Aretha. I've loved Aretha since I was a child. Jackson 5 records, Aretha Franklin records, that was my education.

"The Queen of Soul says it all, and it's absolutely true. She's actually in my top three piano players, too, even if she didn't open her mouth.

"I got to sing with her at Madison Square Garden. We did a duet together and got to hang out with her a bit and talk to her on the phone. She'd call me, I'd call her.

"(She's) the greatest, the greatest, the greatest, the greatest. Just a sweet woman and she just felt like somebody in my family, like one of my aunts. She felt really familiar to me.

"And she was funny. I remember in rehearsal she would constantly be telling jokes and she'd start telling me stories. She'd always have some incredibly funny punch line or she'd pull a picture out of her purse of somethign to show you that was so funny. She was always cracking me up.

"Just a beautiful lady. Demands her respect, and rightfully so."

• Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights: "Aretha Franklin holds a singular place in the hearts of all Michiganders, because she was one of us. But she truly belonged to the nation.

"Along with her unparalleled musical talent, we will remember her for her work to advance civil and human rights. From touring with MLK, to posting bail for civil rights activists and donating concert proceeds in support of voting rights, she played an important role in one of the most significant social movements in history.

"She did not hide behind her celebrity, but neither did she seek the spotlight for her good works. She exemplified the intersectionality of music and civil rights. She represented the sound of many generations — our voices, our hopes, our pain. We will continue to celebrate her gifts for generations to come."

• CeCe Winans, a native Detroiter and gospel singer: “There will never be another Aretha Franklin. Her imprint on the music culture has left a mark that cannot be erased. With all of her success she never forgot Detroit or her roots in the church and gospel music. Many have stood on her shoulders and the entertainment world owes a lot to this incredible gift. My prayers are with the family!”

• Tommy Shaw of Styx: "My heart aches hearing that Aretha Franklin has passed away. She taught us all the difference between singing a song and testifying, touching our souls with each and every performance.

"Her voice never let her down, nor did her spirit. That heavenly band just got the upgrade of an eternity.

"With love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T…."

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